At the Sound Off! Semifinals #2 , the entire night built up, transmigrating itself from making one feel like bit of moss on the side of a tree on a warm, breezy spring morning to the hard-rocked, fiery hellfire that the Skychurch was always meant to be. It was fun as all damn. Sound Off! may have just been one of the best, most fun concerts I have ever attended, and, very possibly, one of the best I will ever attend — seriously.
After a late start of more than half an hour, the first act, Manatee Commune, went up to much praise for an act finally starting. Hailing from Bellingham, this electronic artist combines ambience and downtempo, along with some bright, contrapuntal synthesizer action to create a very airy, happy, peaceful, and overall chillaxed feel. Manatee Commune also played both electric guitar and acoustic viola during his live set, which was quite cool.
I don’t believe the audience gave as much credit as it should’ve to Manatee Commune; sure, he wasn’t very danceable or likable (to the layman who only listens to what the Billboards have to offer) and didn’t have that much to offer in terms of stage banter or crowd interaction, but he was by far the most musically unique act of the night, and one of the most organic, freshest-sounding performers out there right now.
Talking with him after his set, I asked him about what his inspirations were, and he said: “Philip Glass, if I had to name anyone specifically. I grew up taking hikes through Washington’s gorgeous trails and mountains, so I sort of grew a love for nature and everything that was all peaceful about it, you know? I just wanted to create something that was super calming and natural but that still made people super happy.”
Then on came The Onlies, who were comparatively quiet, as they’re an entirely acoustic band. But that didn’t stop them from pumping up the audience, with seemingly everyone stomping and clapping along to their style of uptempo fiddle/american folk music. Unabashedly being from Garfield High School, they definitely received brownie points from everyone in house in that respect. And performance-wise, they were amazing players, multi-instrumentalists all of them, and they were by far the most skilled players there, grinding through their rapid, capricious songs with flowing ease.
Nabii Ko$mo was up next, and DANG did he really get the house going. His verses and riling beats set the house on fire, and he never lost the audience for a moment. It was “dope” you might say. His setlist was a touch repetitive in style, but then again, who likes to come down from the top? No one, and not Nabii Ko$mo, that’s for sure. And for his last song, the unexpected happen: He didn’t rap at all. Instead, the rapper pulled out a guitar and did an shredding solo on it. And this MC received a mosh pit for the ages in return. I think I personally got a nosebleed, but it was still all in good humor and fun, and it was amazing.
The security guards had to come and disperse the mosh pit, but they got used to it after Thee Samedi came on. A distortion-full garage rock group, they rocked the house like none else could. That mosh pit I was just talking about? The security guards gave up on dying to separate it after about one and a half songs. Thee Samedi crowdsurfed, and so did the people within the crowd itself, and I don’t think I’d get any more of a punk-rockin’ vibe if I was at a Marilyn Manson concert or even one from the late G.G. Allin himself. It was quite freaky as well, with the lead singer lapping up his own nose blood, and screaming inside the microphone while it was in his mouth. But it could not have been any more beautiful.
In the end, Thee Samedi won, to the liking of the audience, by a long shot. Also, The Onlies got 2nd place, meaning that now they are what is known as a “Wild Card” in the competition. They’ll get to compete in the finals on March 1 alongside Thee Samedi.
Please, please come next week. I will, and it’s going to be magical, that’s for sure.
Semifinals #3: February 22
Finals: March 1